Virtualisation of museums: art for all
Art has ventured beyond the walls of museums thanks to the Internet. The digitalisation of their collections gives you access to their works from anywhere in the world, wherever you are and whatever your social or cultural level. You become the protagonist of learning, either through the corridors of the museum thanks to virtual reality or taking advantage of the multimedia materials offered by initiatives such as Google Art Project.
Originally, the Roman and Greek museums, or houses of muses dedicated to philosophical reflection and artistic production, were restricted to a privileged few. Today, the geographical situation, the price of a ticket or the limitations on accessibility have ceased to be an obstacle. Anyone with an Internet connection can enjoy and learn from the artistic treasures that are exhibited in major museums around the world.
The development of technology and the arrival of the internet have made possible an authentic revolution in the didactic role of these institutions. The main functions of the museum (collecting, conserving, researching, displaying and educating) have been enhanced by this progressive virtualisation, which allows you to see the Mona Lisa of the Louvre Museum in more detail from the screen of your computer or smartphone than if you were physically in the room where it is on display. Thanks to innovative digitalisation techniques, from the Google Art Camera (capable of providing a resolution of one gigapixel) to 3D scanners or 360-degree cameras, all the details, strokes and brushstrokes of the works are captured.
At the same time as virtual reality and augmented reality are making their way into the exhibition halls, the web pages of some of the most important museums in the world try to adapt these technologies to enhance their online possibilities. It is an experience not intended to replace the face-to-face visit to the complex, but rather separates it from geographical and temporal limitations and enriches it with multimedia and interactive material combining text, images, video and audio.
Specific routes are proposed and the most complete information on each piece is offered, such as date, author, style or country of origin. Thus, the traditional capacities of these kinds of institutions are extended. From the web of the Prado Museum, without going any further, you can access its great encyclopaedia of works and artists, watch videos that explain the Meninas or make interactive tours of its permanent collection and its temporary exhibitions.
Thanks to initiatives like Google Art Project, anyone can access online more than 45,000 objects available in high resolution from some of the most important art institutions in the world. At the click of a hand, you can discover the smallest detail of the collections of the Parisian Orsay Museum or the New York MoMA, the Thyssen-Bornemisza of Madrid or the Fuji Fine Arts Museum in Japan. In fact, you can save lists and images of your favourite works to compose your own digital museum.
BENEFITS OF VIRTUALISATION
The benefits that virtual museums bring for society are numerous and are extended with each new step that technology takes.
In addition to allowing immediate and free Internet access, the websites and apps of the museums respond to the educational needs and demands of the various public profiles. It is about discovering the pieces in a simple and accessible way thanks to lists organised by themes, works, periods or artists.
The traditional didactic materials offered in museums, such as brochures, educational guides or books, have been expanded by interactive games, 360-degree videos, online educational programs and interaction with other users or experts. If you enter the Guggenheim Museum website, for example, you can access 'Adventure in the museum', a game aimed at children and young people with which to discover the main works and the building itself designed by Frank Ghery. It is about learning, of course, but also having a good time putting colourful flowers on Puppy, the iconic giant dog created by Jeff Koons; or give your impressions of 'The Matter of Time', the eight immense sculptures by Richard Serra that greet the visitor as they enter the museum.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN ART TEACHER
In addition to communicating the vision of artists through their works, the virtual museum promotes self-discovery. Here you are responsible for your own learning, which allows you to assimilate the information at your own pace and motivates you to know more, thanks to the ease of access and the interconnection between the different materials.
PLAN YOUR FUTURE VISIT
You can see in advance what is most interesting about the museum in question and establish a preliminary route of the things you do not want to miss. It will save you time and allow you to delve into the works you choose a priori.
Digitisation promotes the preservation and digital downloading of works of art, not depending on the passage of time and the physical deterioration of the original materials. No one is going to tell you not to take photos with a flash and, in most cases, you can use the file completely free to print it, share it or contemplate it whenever and however you want.
The virtualisation not only allows a visit to museums located in other places of the globe, but also to reconstruct online those that have been plundered or destroyed. The Virtual Museum of Iraq, a 3D recreation of the most important works of the sacked National Museum of Iraq, or Rekrei (Project Mosul), a collaborative initiative with which to promote the digital preservation of the cultural heritage destroyed by the Daesh, are a good example of this. In recent years, projects such as the Museum of Stolen Art, in which destroyed or lost works of great artists of all times are exhibited, have also reached the Net.
Thanks to all these advantages, virtualisation ultimately facilitates the ultimate and most important goal of traditional museums: preserving and disseminating works of art, which promotes the development of a more sensitive society knowing its past and the forms of expression of its present.